At the end of the 19th century, both Cuba and the Philippines were rebelling from their common colonial overlord, Spain. Although on opposite sides of the globe, their stories are inextricably linked. As the Spanish Empire crumbled, America moved in for the kill, literally. While Americans had been expanding westward on their own continent for over a century, they had yet to enter the international scene. Previously America’s territorial acquisitions had been associated with occupying new land, not enslaving indigenous populations. For instance, her Louisiana Purchase, the Northwest Territory, and her land grab from Mexico were eventually settled with Americans of European heritage. While the indigenous cultures were transplanted or exterminated, they were never enslaved.
As we shall see, this perspective changed with America’s initial entry into Southeast Asia. It was at this time in history that America first embraced imperialism along with its companion, colonialism. This shift in orientation did not occur subconsciously, but only after much internal debate. Let’s discuss the specifics.
In the early 1800s, both Mexico and the Philippines had already been Spanish colonies for over 2 centuries. To avoid the competition of the Indian Ocean, Spain’s galleons had traveled regularly from Acapulco to Manila on commercial ventures. These trading missions were mixed with the business of maintaining political and religious control over her colony.
Because of declining practicality, the last Spanish galleon from Acapulco reached the shores of the Philippines in 1815. In the 1830s, the Southeast Asian archipelago was at last open to foreign commerce. European demands for the fruits of the Spanish colony led to the growth of commercial agriculture. The cash crops included coffee, hemp, sugar, and rice. Exports grew after the Suez Canal opened in 1869.
Of course, the international profits didn’t ‘trickle down’ to the indigenous peoples of the islands. Instead the economic bounty enriched the wealthy elite – normally large landowners of Spanish descent. They lived on haciendas that grew the lucrative crops.
Besides the economic disparity, the Spanish controlled both centers of power, the state and the Church. In typical Aryan fashion, the European military aristocracy dominated the indigenous population. Due to this inherent ethnic exploitation, political social unrest was inevitable. There had been numerous peasant uprisings against Spanish rule in the Philippines, but none possessed sufficient coordination to achieve any lasting effects.
The beginning of the end began within the Church. The Filipino clergy resented the Spanish monopoly of power within the Roman Catholic Church. A brief uprising, called the Cavite Mutiny, was brutally suppressed. The Spanish used this is an excuse for renewed repression. In 1872, they executed three Filipino priests for allegedly conspiring with the rebels. This martyrdom of the Philippine clergy ignited the fire of anti-Spanish sentiment that polarized Filipino society. The kindling to this fire had been accumulating for a long time.
During the 19th century, a desire for Philippine independence had been emerging in the literate Filipino middle class. Further, in the latter part of that century the wealthy sent their sons to Europe to be educated. As frequently happened all over the colonial world, this exposure to the relative freedom of the citizens in these democratic countries revolutionized the consciousness of these young minds.
They must have asked themselves several questions of a leading variety: Why doesn’t the citizenry of our country have the same rights as our colonial oppressors? Why are we ruled by a foreign power? Why can’t we rule ourselves? These queries led inevitably to the urge for political self-determination.
Due to Spanish repression, reform-minded Filipinos took refuge in Europe in the 1880s. This accumulation of like-minded individuals created a revolutionary pulse. The urge for nationhood manifested as a literary campaign known as the Propaganda Movement.
Amongst the many revolutionaries spawned from increased global knowledge was Dr. José Rizal. Due to his literary efforts, he quickly emerged as the leading Propagandist. His inflammatory writings included The Social Cancer 1886 and The Reign of Greed 1891. Rizal’s exposés of the corruption of Manila Spanish society were calls for reform, not independence. However, as is often the case, his hot words unintentionally ignited the coals of nationalism. Due in part to his books, a potent independence movement began growing in the Philippines.
In 1892, Rizal returned to his homeland to form a political group dedicated to gradual reform. Simultaneously, Andres Bonifacio, a self-educated warehouse clerk, began organizing a secret revolutionary society in Manila. His movement found fertile ground as many Filipinos were discouraged by Spain’s apparent unwillingness to change the manner in which its colonial government was operating. Frustrated by centuries of repression, the non-privileged classes especially embraced his radical nationalist message.
In August 1896, the Spaniards discovered the existence of Bonifacio’s revolution-minded group, which now numbered an estimated 100,000. Understanding the consequences, Bonifacio immediately issued a call for armed rebellion. In a knee-jerk reaction, the Spanish seized and executed the moderate Rizal. This was a particularly outrageous move on the part of the colonial overlords, as Rizal was a member of the privileged class and not even in favor of rebellion. He had never advocated violent revolution, only gradual reform.
Rizal’s public execution on Dec. 30, 1896 shocked, enraged and united both the moderate and radical Filipinos against Spanish rule. Gradual reform was not a viable option anymore. As far as the Philippine populace was concerned, Spain had to relinquish the reigns of power. The Philippine Revolution had begun.
As is the nature of revolutionary groups, there was a power struggle. In March of 1897 Emilio Aguinaldo had Bonifacio shot for alleged sedition and assumed leadership of the battle for independence. Unfortunately for the revolutionary movement, Aguinaldo’s army was unable to oust the Spaniards. Instead Spanish troops, who were augmented by Filipino mercenaries, pushed his rebels into the mountains southeast of Manila in the later months of 1897.
On Dec. 15, 1897, a pact was proclaimed that brought a temporary end to the Philippine Revolution. The Spanish bribed Aguinaldo and other revolutionary leaders with 400,000 pesos to accept exile in Hong Kong. Spain also promised substantial governmental reforms in return for the ceasefire. Of course neither side had any intention of fulfilling the terms of the pact. Aguinaldo used the bribe to purchase arms in Hong Kong, while the Spanish reneged on their promises and engaged in business as usual. As far as Spain was concerned, her army had put down one of the many indigenous insurrections that she had become accustomed to as a long-term colonial power.
Unfortunately for Spain, one of her other colonies was also in the midst of a rebellion. It was a small island on the other side of the globe, just miles off the Florida coast of the United States of America. Who would have thought that this political disturbance on the island of Cuba would have such a huge effect upon international politics?
Cuba was one of Spain’s remaining colonial possessions in the New World. During the 19th century, both Mexico and South America had successfully revolted from their European overlords and assumed local control of their respective territories. Centuries of repression combined with these local examples inspired the Cubans to also seek independence from the burden of the European yoke.
Some of their revolutionary leaders even sought refuge in the United States to raise money and support for their struggle for self-determination. The Cubans expected a sympathetic response for a variety of reasons. First, America was the first colony to successfully revolt from its European overlords. Second, Cuba’s powerful neighbor was a democracy that presumably respected human rights, at least according to their famous Bill of Rights. As kindred spirits, the Cuban revolutionaries expected assistance from America in their drive towards self-determination. Unfortunately these expectations were false.
These perceptions regarding the mindset of the bulk of the American populace were entirely accurate. Americans as a whole believe(d) in promoting democracy, human rights, and self-determination throughout the globe. Indeed because of this sincere belief, they are easily manipulated, as we shall see.
Unfortunately for the Cubans, by this time in history the American government, rather than promoting human rights, was promoting corporate rights. When government and big business join as one, it is an unbeatable combination. This sinister alliance ultimately undermined the Cuban quest for human rights, including self-determination.
Unaware of the forces at work in American politics, the Cuba Libre movement established offices in Florida and New York to promote their cause of independence from Spain. To this end, the Cubans bought weapons and mounted a large propaganda campaign to generate sympathy for their movement. The public as a whole was supportive, both the Protestant churches and the agricultural community. However, Big Business interests joined with politicians to undermine their efforts.
Corporate America wanted to annex Cuba, not set its people free or create an independent republic just off shore. This trend had been growing for quite some time. In 1881 almost 20 years earlier, Secretary of State James G. Blaine wrote: “That rich island, the key to the Gulf of Mexico, is, though in the hands of Spain, a part of the American commercial system… If ever ceasing to be Spanish, Cuba must necessarily become American and not fall under any other European domination.” Cuba was just a small part of this important official’s vision. His expressed ideal was that all of Central and South America should eventually fall to the US. First Cuba, then the rest of the hemisphere. Blaine’s dream was not too far off.
Part of the impetus for American imperialism was America’s rapidly expanding economy. Col. Charles Denby, a railroad magnate and ardent exponent of expanding American influence overseas, argued: “our condition at home is forcing us to commercial expansion … Day by day production is exceeding home consumption … We are after markets, the greatest markets in the world.”
Echoing and extending this sentiment, Senator Orville Platt of Connecticut stated in 1894:
“I firmly believe that when any territory outside the present territorial limits of the United States becomes necessary for our defense or essential for our commercial development we ought to lose no time in acquiring it.”
It was obvious to anyone that was listening that the American government was more interested in acquiring more property than it was in assisting indigenous independence movements.
Because of the public nature of American intentions, the Cubans rushed to establish their independence before annexation proceedings could begin. The Cuban fears of American imperialism were justified. The U.S. had already established military control of Hawaii and had begun annexation proceedings. Closer to home: shortly after the rebellion began in February 1895, the United States offered to buy Cuba from Spain in secret negotiations, but was turned down. Having waited decades for this opportunity, Corporate America wasn’t about to let this jewel slip out of their hands.
Due to a prior rebellion, Cubans were prohibited from possessing weapons. As such, one of their priorities while in the US was to procure weapons. Due to an abundance of public support, their endeavor was quite successful. Unfortunately, getting the weapons to Cuba, where they were needed, was another story. Only one of out of 60 attempts to bring these military supplies to Cuba was successful, and this was due to British support. Significantly, the US Coast Guard and Navy thwarted a majority of these efforts to supply munitions to the Cuban revolutionaries. Simply speaking, although there was huge public support for the Cuban revolution, Corporate America wasn’t going to let it happen.
Although under funded and without proper armaments, the revolutionaries quickly established control of most of the island. Spain sent in a general known as ‘The Butcher’ to quell the insurrection. He employed a brutal method known as ‘reconcentration’ to relocate the agrarian peasants into the cities. This forced relocation led to deaths in the tens of thousands. Although his vicious techniques successfully stalled the drive for independence, they simultaneously ignited a sense of outrage on part of the American public.
As noted, the Cuba Libre movement had already generated an abundance of literature in America calling attention to their plight. Having gone through a similar revolution just a century before, the American public was completely sympathetic to their cause. The Butcher’s brutality aroused an even deeper sense of compassion for the Cuban people.
This public compassion turned into a call for action somewhat due to sensational journalism of the New York press. William Randolph Hearst of the New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World entered into a fierce battle for newspaper subscribers. Their respective desires to increase readership led to questionable journalistic techniques that border on lies. Distortions, exaggerations, significant omissions, and fabrications were employed to generate dramatic headlines that would attract readers. These unscrupulous techniques are deemed ‘yellow journalism’. Of course, the reporting had a significant bias towards armed conflict.
Spain began responding to the complaints and moving towards self-rule in Cuba, albeit belatedly. Resolution seemed imminent between the combatants. Illustrator Frederic Remington reported back to his boss that conditions in Cuba were not bad enough to warrant hostilities. Hearst responded: “You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war.” Many feel that the Spanish-American War would not have occurred except for the yellow journalism of Hearst and Pulitzer.
Others feel that the American public was ripe for war. Proud of their egalitarian democratic institutions, they wanted to share them with the world. As Protestant farmers, they were especially critical of Catholic Spain and what they considered to be its degenerate empire ruled by a hereditary aristocracy. Flush with a notion of Manifest Destiny and a feeling of cultural superiority, they welcomed the opportunity to free indigenous people everywhere from oppression. Indeed this almost inborn mentality has allowed Corporate America to lead the American public into wars that have absolutely nothing to with these noble ideals.
Although there was a rising clamor for intervention, President McKinley and some of his advisors were resistant to entering the international arena. Then in February 1898, the USS Maine sank in the Havana Harbor due to a mysterious, and still unexplained, explosion. The rhetoric of the Cuban Liberation Movement had already enflamed the compassion of the American public, Protestants and farmers alike. Perhaps exaggerated by Hearst’s yellow journalism, the sinking of the Maine proved to be the catalyst that ignited the fury of Americans everywhere. Subsequently, popular pressure ‘forced’ America into a war that McKinley had attempted to avoid. Once in place, Corporate America along with the military–industrial complex enthusiastically and relentlessly pursued the war and its consequences.
As far as the American public was concerned, the purpose of the looming war with Spain was to free their territories from colonial rule. It had nothing or little to do with America becoming a colonial power in its own right. The U.S. Congress reflected this intent in their declaration of war against Spain in April 1898.
The American war declaration included the Teller Amendment, which passed unanimously. The document stipulated that “the island of Cuba is, and by right should be, free and independent”. The amendment repudiated any intention on the part of the United States to exercise jurisdiction or control over Cuba for other than pacification reasons. More importantly, it stated that American military forces would be removed once the war was over. The document made no mention of the Philippines, Guam, or Puerto Rico. This anti-imperialist document appeased the American public, who had no desire to establish an overseas empire. It soon became apparent that Corporate America was headed in the opposite direction.
In addition to being brief, the Spanish-American war of 1898 was ridiculously one-sided. It cost America little in terms of casualties and destroyed equipment. Spain was barely able to dominate the under-supplied Cuban revolutionaries armed only with their machetes and stolen weapons. Her antiquated military capabilities were no match for America’s formidable power. The American Navy combined with Teddy Roosevelt’s 1st Volunteer Cavalry, the ‘Rough Riders’, defeated Spain and established control of Cuba in less than 3 months.
Although the war declaration only authorized the President to use force to secure Spain’s withdrawal from Cuba, the US military obviously had grander plans. Simultaneous with America’s attack on Cuba, the US Navy attacked and destroyed the Spanish Navy in the Philippines on May 1, 1898. As an indication of how ill-prepared the Spanish were for armed conflict, it only took one morning with a mere 7 Americans wounded to secure control over the Philippine waters. After ground troops arrived three months later, Manila fell after a bloodless "battle" on August 13. As an illustration of how pathetic the Spanish resistance was, the Governor secretly arranged a surrender after a mock show of resistance, presumably designed to salvage his honor. With her colonial army and navy destroyed or disabled, Spain sued for peace.
On December 10, 1898, the United States and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris. Spain renounced all claims to Cuba, ceded colonial control of Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States, and transferred sovereignty over the Philippines to the United States for 20 million dollars. Although the peace treaty affirmed Cuba’s independence, Cubans were excluded from the negotiations and the celebrations.
More importantly, Congress passed the Platt Amendment to insure that Cuba would remain under American control. Upon Spain’s withdrawal, the U.S. would take over the administration of Cuba for an undetermined amount of time and assume all international obligations. Further, the American Marines could intervene at will and the U.S. could operate a naval base on the island forever. To appease the anti-colonial sentiments at home, Cuba was not referred to as a colony, but as an American Protectorate. The relationship was akin to father and child, rather than owner and slave, to the naïve American mind.
The original war declaration had renounced any American designs of annexing Cuba and had made no mention of Spain’s other colonies. However, the war resulted in the U.S. acquiring all of Spain’s remaining colonial territories in both Southeast Asia and Latin America. In other words, it was Aryan business as usual on the international plane. The victor seizes the loser’s property including his slaves.
Due to the vocal objections of an anti-imperialism minority, the Platt Amendment only barely passed with a two-thirds majority. The anti-imperialists argued first that the former Spanish territories should be given self-rule. The second argument was as follows. If the U.S. was to assume political control, then Cubans and Filipinos should be granted the same rights as Americans. Both arguments were rejected. On the losing side, these arguments against colonization faded into historical obscurity. In contrast, the winning imperialist mentality set an American political precedent that is still in place over a century later.
The Spanish-American War brought Spain's rule in the Philippines to a close in 1898, but precipitated the Philippine-American War. This bloody war between Filipino revolutionaries and the U.S. Army may be seen as a continuation of the Philippine Revolution against Spanish rule.
The American military was able to easily subjugate Cuba, as it was just a small island right off the coast. The Philippines was another matter altogether. As an archipelago, it consisted of an uncountable number of small islands. Further it was half way around the globe. More importantly, the Filipinos were armed, organized and motivated.
Recall that in 1897, Spain had suppressed the popular insurrection in their sole Southeast Asian colony, the Philippines. While the natives were far from happy, their leaders were in exile. More importantly, it was clearly evident that the aborted revolution did not have enough firepower to oust their oppressors. However, the state of affairs on the archipelago was not peace, but armed truce. The coals of revolt were far from extinguished, but still glowing a deep red. The glowing coals only required a little more fuel to ignite into a transformative conflagration.
Further Aguinaldo, the leader of the Philippine Revolution against Spain, had accepted a large amount of money to leave the archipelago. He used this money to buy weaponry. Immediately after the American Navy destroyed the Spanish fleet, Aguinaldo returned. On June 12, 1898, he issued the Philippine Declaration of Independence and the First Philippine Republic was established. Filipinos still celebrate their birth as a nation on this day. Unfortunately, the remainder of 1898 was the only local freedom the Filipinos were to experience for half a century.
It became immediately apparent that America was the proverbial ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ – enemy rather than ally. After the American forces seized control of Manila from Spain, they wouldn’t allow Filipinos into the capitol city. This was only the first indication that the Americans were betraying their noble ideals and the Filipinos. The second came at the end of the year with the Paris Peace Treaty of 1898. America paid Spain $20 million for their colony. There was no mention of Philippine self-determination. Property was just changing hands between colonial powers.
Corporate America had purchased the territory. They even had the legal documents to support their claim. Unfortunately for the American Company, the local inhabitants didn’t recognize the legitimacy of these corrupted pieces of paper. The U.S. claimed sovereignty over the archipelago due to an international agreement between descendants of the Aryan race. Recall that the Aryan political system was based upon a military aristocracy subjugating and ruling an indigenous population. However, now an impersonal profit-generating corpratocracy was in charge rather than a hereditary aristocracy.
The Philippine independence movement had an entirely different vision of their future. The 2 goals of the Filipino revolution were self-determination and social reform. Corporate America was diametrically opposed to any kind of nationalism, as it would inhibit stockholder profits. Further wealthy Filipinos sided with the new colonial power to support existing institutions and thwart any kind of social change. In other words, there were irreconcilable differences between the two sides. With Manila in the hands of the American military and the remainder of the archipelago in the hands of the Philippine natives, war was inevitable.
In January 1899, Aguinaldo, the revolutionary leader, established the Malolos Republic, named after the location in which a constitution was signed. Shortly after, hostilities began. American soldiers were instructed to “Burn all and kill all”. Due to superior firepower, the American Company was eventually able to put down this insurrection of the indigenous livestock against their Aryan political system. However the island-to-island fighting was brutal in terms of loss of life and the destruction of property. It is estimated that 600,000 Filipinos died in the conflict.
Aguinaldo was captured in 1901. He subsequently appealed to Filipinos to cease fighting and accept U.S. sovereignty. But the Filipino outrage was universal, not just inspired by a charismatic leader. The bloodshed continued. The American Company claimed that the official end to the so-called insurrection occurred in 1902. After this year, the American Press referred to Philippine revolutionaries as ‘bandits’ to denigrate their significance. It was only in 1906 that the last pockets of resistance were subdued. In contrast to the bloodless 3-month long Spanish-American War, the American-Philippine War was a destructive and bloody prolonged 7-year conflict. The resilience of a race of people fighting for personal freedom is quite different from a slave owner fighting to retain his ill-gotten gains.
What was the attitude of the American public to Corporate America’s raping and pillaging of the Philippines? It must have been jarring to their collective psyche. After all, it was their noble democratic ideals that initially inspired the overseas involvement. Let us hear what a prominent American citizen had to say about the deception, Mark Twain October 15, 1900.
“I left these shores, at Vancouver, a red-hot imperialist. I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific. It seemed tiresome and tame for it to content itself with the Rockies. Why not spread its wings over the Philippines, I asked myself? And I thought it would be a real good thing to do.
I said to myself, here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which we had addressed ourselves.
But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem …
It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”
There were certainly scattered statements of outrage and sporadic protests against America’s obviously imperialist behavior. However, Americans in general wanted to feel good about themselves and their country. The Corporate-controlled Press, as epitomized by Hearst’s yellow journalism, assisted the Public in their attempt to resolve this disturbing cognitive dissonance.
From the beginning, the Party line was that the American military presence in the Philippines was to train and prepare ‘our little brown brothers’ for self-government and ultimate independence. This ‘feel-good’ philosophy was the essential rationalization for U.S. hegemony over all of its colonial properties, not just the Philippines. Of course, the training duration had indefinite limits. Corporate America would not give up its property to self-rule until friendly Filipinos were firmly in control.
The Spanish-American War was an important turning point in the political history of the entire planet. The victorious United States emerged from the war a world power with far-flung overseas possessions. These seemingly small territories proved to be the foothold Corporate America needed to accomplish their expressed goal of world domination.
The industrialists were quite aware of the strategic value of their newly won properties. Secretary of State Blaine had noted 20 years earlier that Cuba was the key to the Gulf of Mexico. The veiled subtext of his comments became quite evident in the decades after the U.S. assumed control of Cuba.
The American Navy and Marines established a military presence in the Gulf of Mexico. Corporate interests, such as Standard Oil, the United Fruit Company, Domino Sugar, and Anaconda Copper, then employed the American military, specifically the Marines, to easily force their will upon the small and relatively defenseless Central American countries.
From the end of the Spanish-American War until the mid-1930s, the American Marines invaded the nations on the perimeter of the Gulf almost 30 times. This military aggression included taking the Isthmus of Panama from Colombia to build an international canal. Frequently the U.S. Army stayed on as an occupying army, sometimes for decades. When they finally departed, a dictator, armed to the teeth by the military-industrial complex, was left firmly in charge of the occupied country. Although of local heritage, he was subservient to those who put him power.
The savage Somoza family in Nicaragua is but one example. The Somozan patriarch first employed the American-funded Nicaraguan Army to depose the elected president in 1936. The family dynasty then ruled Nicaragua as ruthless dictators for 40 years. It is no secret that massive amounts of American military aid propped up their repressive regime. Employing similar means, Corporate America established nearly complete control of Central America by the beginning of WWII.
Conquering and establishing dictatorial control of the surrounding countries in the Northern American hemisphere was accomplished in the first half of the century. It took longer for Corporate America to establish this same kind of control in the rest of the world. However, Corporate's vision is long-term and very patient. Those who served the obscenely large profits of their Corporate master fully realized the strategic value of the Philippines.
Immediately after the Spanish-American War, Senator Albert Beveridge stated: “The Philippines are ours forever … and just beyond the Philippines are China’s illimitable markets … the Pacific is our ocean.” This statement only refers to expanding markets for business. But that was only a small part of his vision.
Beveridge continues to say, “The power that rules the Pacific is the power that rules the world … That power is and will forever be the American Republic.” Obviously world domination is foremost in his mind. Judging by history, he wasn’t alone in his vision. Corporate America was fully aware that just as Cuba was the ‘key’ to the Gulf of Mexico, that the Philippines were the ‘key’ to the Pacific Ocean. Possessing these two keys was the path to a global empire. It is quite evident that the birth of the imperially-minded American Company occurred with the ‘bloodless’ Spanish-American War of 1898.
Again what about the American Public and their democratic ideals? Did they feel guilty about the imperialist processes that they set in motion by insisting on American military intervention in Cuba? Did they attempt to employ the power of the vote to reverse this nefarious course of action? Were there regular protests against the disgusting behavior of the American government?
No, of course not. The Corporate-controlled Press only reported the ‘feel-good’ lies generated by the Company. The Masters of War were and are amazingly effective at telling people what they want to believe, even as they proceed(ed) in the opposite direction. Even Mark Twain, an astute and critical observer of foreign affairs, was fooled by the imperialist propaganda regarding Cuba.
A Boston Herald transcript of a speech he gave in 1900 began thus:
“Oh, you have been doing many things in this time that I have been absent; you have done lots of things, some that are well worth remembering, too. Now, we have fought a righteous war since I have been gone, and that is rare in history--a righteous war is so rare that it is almost unknown in history; but by the grace of that war we set Cuba free, and we joined her to those three or four free nations that exist on this earth; and we started out to set those poor Filipinos free too, and why, why, why that most righteous purpose of ours has apparently miscarried I suppose I never shall know.”
Although Twain was appalled about what was going on in the Philippines, he seemed to think that the U.S. went to a rare ‘righteous war’ to ‘set Cuba free’. Perhaps he wasn’t aware of the Platt Amendment, which transferred Cuban freedom to the U.S. Government for an indefinite amount of time.
It is hard to know whether the industrialist/politicians really believed their imperialist propaganda or whether it was just a way to ‘feel good’ about the atrocities they committed. However, their message to the American public was certainly tied up with moral prerogative and racial superiority. And both of these notions are contained in the ‘meme’ of Manifest Destiny.
We already mentioned one aspect of the ‘feel-good’ lie regarding Cuba and the Philippines. America maintains indefinite control of ‘immature’ countries to gradually guide them towards a democracy. In this sense, America is the all-knowing benevolent father, while his colonial ‘protectorates’ are his children. As any good parent would, he protects them from harm and provides moral guidance, as they grow to adulthood. Once his colonies mature, he will set them free.
Of course, this father-child understanding of colonial possessions is intimately linked with a feeling of racial, or at least cultural superiority. While muted in our modern ‘politically correct’ world, this message was clearly enunciated at this watershed moment in history. Let us hear from Senator Beveridge again:
“We are the ruling race of the world. We will not renounce our part in the mission of our race, trustees, under God of the civilization of the world. He has marked us as his chosen people. He has made us adept in government that we may administer government among savage and senile peoples.”
He says it all: ‘ruling race of the world’ – ‘mission of our race’ – ‘chosen people’ – ‘under God’ – ‘savage and senile peoples’ – ‘civilization of the world’.
In his statement, Senator Beveridge of Indiana clearly enunciated an implicit belief that guided and guides American international politics even unto the present day. Under this way of thinking, it is America’s divine mission as the ‘ruling race’ to civilize the world. Manifest Destiny is the meme for this notion. Used in a sentence: America’s Manifest Destiny is to spread their superior cultural influence throughout the globe. Believing that one is part of a divinely sanctioned mission is certainly good for the self-esteem.
This notion/meme is certainly one keystone of the ‘feel-good’ lie. Challenging this concept is a political career-breaker. It arouses such cognitive dissonance that the stones come out to punish or destroy the cultural heretic.
What are the significant features of our ‘civilizing’ influence?
Although America’s mission is ‘divinely sanctioned’ and even though most Americans were Protestant up until the beginning of the 20th century, Manifest Destiny was not really about religion. After all, the separation of church and state is written into the American constitution. The underlying belief structure of Protestantism certainly exerts an influence on this belief complex. The notion of a ‘Christian nation’ is also bandied about. Beveridge even employs the catch phrases ‘under God’ and ‘chosen people’ to evoke Biblical parallels. But in similar fashion to Jewish faith, religious conversion has rarely been part of the Protestant message.
As mentioned in earlier chapters, the Protestant nation/empires, England and the Netherlands, had no interest in converting native populations to their religion. Like bandits, they just wanted their gold. In contrast, the Catholic nation/empires, Portugal, Spain and finally France, combined the intent of religious conversion with rapacious greed. On the positive side, this meant that they wanted to include their colonies in their culture, both religious and political. In brief, the Catholic colonies were part of the family, albeit inferior, while the Protestant colonies were just a form of income property. This sense of inclusion was one reason it was so hard for the Spanish to let go of Cuba and the Philippines. It was like the death of her children.
While America, as a Protestant nation was not interested in religious conversion, the American public, at least, believed in political conversion. And Corporate America played this urge like a world-class symphony conductor to manipulate their choices/their votes. Part of the implicit, and sometimes explicit, belief structure of the American people, then and now, is that we want to convert the entire world to democracy. The reasoning is straightforward and the ideals somewhat noble. This political system has been so good for us that we want every country to be a democracy.
There is some merit behind this urge. The American people have every right to be proud of their democratic institutions. Their establishment of a democracy after their popular revolution from England created a new political technology that was to overturn the existing social order.
For nearly 2 millennia, a military aristocracy had ruled nearly every political entity on the planet. Ever since Augustus overthrew the republic and established the Roman Empire at the beginning of the Common Era, emperors, kings, and princes had ruled the populace by virtue of their military might. Prior to Augustus, both Greece and Rome had been democracies. By casting a vote, all property owners had been able to exert some influence on governmental decisions. After Augustus, the citizens had been excluded from the decision-making process.
The American Revolution reversed this trend. By establishing a democracy, the founding fathers overturned the existing patriarchal hierarchy and replaced it with a more egalitarian society. Although it took some time, eventually all humans, rich or poor, male or female, black or white, were granted the same rights.
Following the American example, all the kingdoms in Europe eventually converted to democracy in the decades and centuries to come. Sometimes these political conversions were peaceful and other times via a popular revolution. Due to the focus on personal freedom, equality and basic human rights, democratic institutions have gradually spread to the rest of the planet as well. It is for these reasons that Americans take pride in their democracy with its egalitarian message. Altruistically, they want every human to have the same rights, which includes freedom from oppression.
The American public certainly has noble ideals: assist local cultures to throw off the shackles of tyranny, whether home grown or colonial. Help these people to establish a democracy where every citizen presumably has an equal say in government due to the right to vote. Unfortunately, the average citizen didn’t realize that America had become the oppressor. Ironically, the sincere desire of the American populace to create freedom had the exactly opposite effect.
To persuade the American public to cooperate by voting for their agenda, the Corporate-controlled Press fed them ‘feel good’ propaganda. They told the Public what they wanted to hear. Americans desperately want to believe that their country is assisting foreign cultures to overthrow dictatorships and helping them to establish democracies. It is good for their self-esteem. Instead, Corporate America was and is establishing dictatorships, inhibiting personal freedoms and maintaining the patriarchal hierarchy.
Perhaps one reason that the Public was and is so willing to believe the propaganda is that they are frequently beneficiaries of the corporate agenda. As a result of exploitation, Americans were and are able to obtain overseas goods at relatively low prices. During the early 20th century, sugar, rubber, oil and produce such as bananas, cost consumers far less due to corporate practices.
This pattern of ‘feel-good’ propaganda began with the Spanish-American War and the colonization of Cuba and the Philippines and continues to this day. 1898 was the beginning of America’s international Imperialist Pulse that was to dominate the 20th century and still lingers into the 21st. The endurance and long term influence of this continuing pattern justifies the number of pages spent on this topic.
Don’t worry though. After going through hell, Southeast Asia’s story eventually has a relatively happy ending.